Monday, June 1, 2015


Entry NicknameIf You Give a Girl a Redo
Title: The Art of Almost
Word count: 110,000
Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction


Pediatric surgeon Anna Marin already carries too many regrets. She’s still not over the one who got away or the fallout from her mother’s devastating stroke. On a flight home to marry the wrong man, she vows to save herself further remorse by breaking off her engagement. It’s time move on—from all of it.
But when Anna wakes as her 20-year-old self en route to study in Australia, it seems fate has a different idea: a second chance with Charlie Beckham, the older man she was drawn to but never pursued out of loyalty to her eventual fiancé Nick Halstead. This time Anna falls hard, and being with Charlie is even better than what she’s spent more than a decade imagining.

Yet if the rest of Anna’s history plays out as it once did, in a few months her mother will suffer a debilitating stroke that renders her unable to care for Anna’s six-year-old sister Noelle. Crushed by the loss, Noelle will begin a downward spiral from which she never recovers.

Try as she might to alter her mother’s path, it soon becomes clear that Anna must make an impossible decision: walk away from the love of her life—again—or stay with Charlie and allow her family’s future to be marred by illness and abandonment. Adding to Anna’s distress, Nick arrives in Australia to win her back. Seeing him as the boy she used to know, Anna finally realizes she also played a part in their relationship’s unraveling.

As her one-day fiancé changes his course, and complications emerge in her relationship with Charlie, Anna’s even more confused by what the past, present, and future hold. All the while she wonders when her time in the past will run out, or whether the clock’s been rewound for good.

First 250 words:

The front door slammed. Automatically my body stiffened. What I needed to do was move, and fast. Yet I stood still, staring down the garment bag hanging from the closet door. Just the thought of unzipping it exhausted me. I couldn’t fathom how I’d manage a night of small talk engineered to boost already-inflated egos.

I pushed the bag aside and looked into the full-length mirror to confirm what I already knew: thanks to seven hours under a surgical cap, my hair was a disaster. And to my knowledge no product existed to tame curls that looked like you’d spent the night doing cartwheels in a wind tunnel.

“Anna Jane?” came Nick’s voice from the foyer. “You ready?”

I grabbed my robe and wrapped it around me. “I’m not quite—”

He burst into the closet. “What the—you’re not even dressed? The car’s gonna be here in ten minutes!”

I was the one who agreed to attend the black tie benefit, and I was the one who offered up pro bono time knowing full well I’d be late getting home. But still it was him I was angry with. “O’Keefe needed a peds surgeon for the Kelley case. An OR opened up and they’ve been waiting for weeks, and tonight’s just—”

“Just what, Anna? Tonight’s just what?”

I turned to unzip the bag for a reason to break his gaze. “I can’t control the schedule, Nick.”

What I didn’t admit was that a colleague had offered his time too, but I’d insisted. 


Entry NicknameBaby Blues Ruse
Title: The Calling Of One
Word Count: 88K
Genre: Adult Upmarket Apocalyptic


Mikenna Lawson wakes up every morning wishing she wasn’t the last human ever born. When the human race makes the permanent decision to stop reproducing, Mikenna imagines herself as the second Eve, and repopulating the Earth.

But Mikenna doesn’t know she was born during a time when reproduction was illegal; that her mother, Anna, had risked both their lives for a chance at life. So when she learns from her Aunt Rebekah that she was sterilized at birth, her hopes come crashing down. One day she’s Googling images of babiesto see if they look like the ones she sees in her dreams. The next day she’s contemplating suicide so someone else can be the last. And despite her wonderful husband, Mikenna abstains from sexual relations because of its emotional connection to her sterilization.

As Mikenna nears menopause, and the human race dwindles, she discovers what she should’ve known years before: she was never sterilized. Rebekah had known all along that the doctor who delivered Mikenna saved her from the sterilization.

The truth tears at Mikenna’s heart as the dream of having a child, and continuing the human race, becomes possible. But she’ll have to decide if fulfilling her own desire is worth subjecting an innocent child to the burdens of an empty world.

First 250 words:

Each leaden footstep Anna took through her unlit home brought her closer to the garage; closer to victory; and each painstaking step symbolized defiance against The Decision. At the end of the hallway she measured the distance to her next supporting wall and shuffled on. But a growing ache halted her at the dining room table. In desperation, she grasped the closest chair, breathing quick, rapid breaths. Her back shuddered, as if the Earth had just shifted across her spine, and it threatened to bring her body down in a crumbling mess. Her contracting muscles pulsed, hastening her daughter toward an undeserved life.

“Oh, my precious little girl,” Anna whispered, “I’m sorry I got you into this. I’m sorry, Mikenna, but one day you’ll know . . . my heart was selfless.”

At the point of collapse, Anna grit her teeth, and with a huff of determination, heaved herself up. She pushed off, and continued on with trembling knees through her hiding place, her cage. Five steps more, and Anna turned toward the living room. David stood to the side of the window, concealing himself in the darkness, holding the curtain back slightly with his pointer finger. A shaft of light from the afternoon sun snuck past and landed on the carpet, exposing a flurry of dust.

“I’m ready,” Anna beckoned. “David . . . please?”

Anna waited. Her labored breathing filled the silence.

“Where are They?” David mocked, looking outside. “They have to know.”

“They can’t,” Anna pleaded. “Please, God, They can’t."


  1. Give a Girl a Redo:

    This query sounds amazing. It's a little long, though—try to combine the paragraphs and trim a bit. To me, the last sentence in the second-to-last paragraph raises more questions than it answers. I don't think it adds anything to the query, and I'd cut it. You don't really need to name the sister, either. I think you can rework that paragraph to only refer to the sister once and cut the name.

    Great voice in the first 250. I love the introduction to the character. But I'm also confused. The query starts with Anna on her way to a flight to get married. The first page shows Anna going to a museum benefit, and I don't see any logical connection between the two. If this were a query where I got 10 pages or a full chapter, maybe it would be more clear. For this contest, though, I'm left wondering if this is the best place to open the story, or if we're about to plunge into a flashback or what's going on.

    Baby Blues Ruse:

    You've got a really great concept here. I am curious what makes this "upmarket," though. The first paragraph confuses me a little. It sounds like Mikenna is already an adult when the entire human race decides to stop reproducing, but then how is it possible that not a single human has been born in the last couple of decades? If you clarify that a little, you'll have a much stronger hook. Also "abstains from sexual relations" feels a little cold, almost clinical. I'd love to see more of Mikenna's voice in the query.

    The query's a little on the short side, and I think adding some detail about the overall plot would also help. I feel like I have a lot of questions about the story that aren't being answered.

    Your first 250 should start with your main character, not her mother. Starting with a page of backstory is confusing. The best way to start your manuscript is with the current, immediate action. There are a million blog posts and articles about why prologues are bad. It's better to delete this one.


  2. If You Give a Girl a Redo

    First note: common wisdom is for debut novels (where target age = Adult) between 80K to 100K if at all possible.

    "It’s time move on—from all of it" — at first I thought she was abandoning her invalid mother, which isn't necessarily the best way to win points for the protagonist. Further, it would help to know how old she is in the beginning to appreciate how much of a "reset" this is (ten years seemed to be implied).

    Try to keep named characters down to three (for example, there's really no need to name the sister here). Also, not sure why she would have to leave Charlie to help her family. Relationships and family aren't typically mutually exclusive (not saying there isn't a reason, just that it needs to be spelled out).

    "Nick arrives in Australia to win her back" — does this mean he "resets" as well? It was unclear, because if she's in the past (i.e., before their relationship) then what does "win her back" mean.

    I do like the premise, and the ticking clock is great for ramping up the tension. But I don't think the stakes are clear enough yet, and the word count is high (currently 299; I would aim for under 250).

    First 250 words:
    Two observations:

    1) A strong narrative voice is essential, especially in first person (since we're inside the narrator's head). Right now I'm not getting much personality from this narrator.

    2) Starting a story with two characters fighting is tricky because the reader isn’t invested in either of them yet. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but I would say that one of the absolute keys to pulling it off is a killer narrative voice (see point 1 :)

    The writing itself is competent, but if this opening wants to really grab readers I think we need to see a lot more personality from the start.


    Baby Blues Ruse

    Killer opening line. Well done.

    "When the human race makes the permanent decision " — the time frame here is throwing me because it sounds like a comment about the present but clearly the decision would have been made when she was only an infant (or before she was born). Maybe "After the human race..."

    "So when she learns… she was sterilized at birth" — At this point I'm lost. Why would sterilization come as a surprise to anyone at this point? Has Mikenna been kept in the dark? But obviously she knows something, because she dreams of being a Second Eve.

    Great closing hook: pitting her own desires against what would be best for a child.

    I love the premise (no idea why the human race would decide to do this, but in a query I don't need to; I'm hooked (others may feel differently, of course)). But IMO the middle section needs work to help connect the dots. Everything needs to be laid out as clearly as possible.

    First 250 words:
    The way "The Decision" is dropped in here leaves me more confused than intrigued. Just having her struggle down the hallway is interesting enough.

    Also, beginning the book with someone other than the main character can often prove problematic in general. I would also question whether the scene is giving away too much. In the query Mikenna doesn't seem to know for some time that her mother broke the law, but here the reader finds out right away. So the reader has information that the main character doesn't know, which can become distracting if it takes too long to come out.

    Having said that, I think overall the scene itself is well done. The writing is evocative, and the tension feels real.


    This is a tough one. I would say the query for Redo is stronger (= clearer), but feel the 250 for Ruse contains more powerful writing. Both premises are interesting, but jumping back in time has been done before (which is not at all to say it can't be done again; just saying, is all) while the idea of the human race deciding not to reproduce intrigues me to no end.

    So in the end, while for me it's a close call, (a slightly subjective) VICTORY TO BABY BLUES RUSE!

  3. Redo - It's a strong query and definitely pulls me in but I'm also left feeling a little overwhelmed by the number of things going on. We've got Anna, Charlie, Nick, Anna's mom, Noelle and the younger versions of the characters in the query.

    The 250 starts with a scene to show us how her relationship with Nick is unraveling but it might be better to start after it's already done. Let's start with the moving on and really get to the heart of the matter.

  4. Redo -
    Interesting concept. I did have a few questions regarding the timeline of her various relationships -- with Nick coming to 'win her back' in the past. If he's a lifelong friend/college beau, perhaps there's some way to fold that in? In the opening 250, the writing pulled me in with its voice and confidence. The dialogue felt natural -- with the mc's withholding information in combination with the conversation.

    Baby Blues
    I got a bit bogged down in the query. When I read the human race had decided to stop reproducing, I assumed this was either by legal decree and/or medical procedure and was puzzled as to why would Mikenna imagine herself as a second Eve? I immediately wanted to know if, for some reason, she was exempt from this worldwide decision? Or whether her imagining was in defiance of the rules? I think layering in this information would raise the stakes earlier in the query. In the first 250, when the story started with someone other than Mikenna, I was surprised -- since it's her story. If the story's to be told in multiple POVs, perhaps add that into the query? I noted a typo/tense shift: grit/gritted

  5. Redo--

    Query: This sounds like a TV show I happen to adore. My one issue is that there are a ton of named characters in there and you've got to cut it down. Even though I'm interested, I'm confused.

    250: That's a lot of em dashes for a tiny section of words. I wonder if it's starting in the right place? Maybe even if you just expand a little before he butts in?

    Baby Blue Ruse:

    Query: Not sure that's a real genre. Pretty sure the last sentence of the first paragraph is missing some words. There's definitely something interesting and new in there, but as is, I'm just sort of confused.

    250: Agree that starting from the POV of the MC's mom is confusing.

  6. Give a Girl a Redo: Love the idea of revisiting your first love with the possibility of doing it all over and making it right. The query feels a bit long and too involved, though, with too many details. Do we need every bit of that info to understand the basics? I'm also wondering if how this "do-over" is accomplished. As a reader, if that isn't somehow explained, I might not buy in.

    First 250: Love the voice. You might not know that many agents regard someone looking at themselves in the mirror as a cliched way to get in a description. How about skipping the mirror part? She must know what her hair looks like from experience, perhaps she just runs her hands through it and imagines how dreadful it is. Same effect minus the cliche.

    Baby Blue: One of the most unique concepts I've come across, kudos! The job of a writer is to make readers suspend disbelief, and I find it hard to believe the human race would ever stop reproducing for any reason other than sudden immortality, so I would love to see the reasons explained in the query. That would make for a great hook.

    First 250: Through me for a loop. I'm assuming it is a prologue, which is fine. Just make sure when you do submit to any agents it's clear that it is a prologue. It's very dramatic and compelling writing. One suggestion: if you add the word "unborn" to the last line of the first paragraph, things will be much clearer immediately for readers who have not seen a query.

    Other people have mentioned this, but it bears repeating: your genre does not exist. To a reader it doesn't matter, but I worry that an agent will see upmarket apocalyptic and brand you as an amateur. Why risk it? Adult dystopian perhaps? Adult thriller?

  7. If You Give A Girl A Redo

    My first note for you is that 110k is a little on the long side. Most agents don't want to see anything over 100k, so consider going through and trimming where you can. Don't give them a reason to say no right off the bat!

    The biggest thing I think you can do here is some condensing and a little bit of clarification.

    First Paragraph: I'd almost like to see the first two sentences combined with an em dash, "Pediatric surgeon Anna Marin already carries too many regrets--she's still pining for the one who got away, recovering from the fallout of her mother's stroke, and xxx (maybe more detail about her sister)." I'm curious what sparks her to break off the engagement, is there an inciting incident that prompts it?

    2nd Paragraph: You say she wakes as her "20-year-old self" but I think in order for this to be significant to us, you need to weave in how far back in time she's gone. I'd recommend cutting, "out of loyalty...Nick Halstead." That particular comment makes me really confused about the timeline between one man and the other. It sounds like there might be some overlap between them.

    3rd paragraph: Try to limit the number of named characters in your query to no more than three. In this case, I'd skip naming Noelle. I also think that you can stick the last sentence here in the first paragraph and then combine the first sentence with the paragraph below.

    4th paragraph: Alright, I don't really understand the stakes. Why can't she be with Charlie *and* help out with her mother? Also, consider changing the word "abandonment" which has a negative connotation. I get a little confused when I read that Nick is coming to win her back. Is this in the past? The present? Was she dating Nick before she met Charlie? As for the last sentence, I think you can reword that to make your point clearer.

    Last paragraph: When you say "changes his course" I'm not sure whether you mean literally or figuratively here. Be as specific as you can without giving it all away.

    250: Overall, I really liked the 250. My recommendation would be to vary the sentence structure in the very beginning since you've got three short sentences in a row . Consider skipping the mirror. Lots of openings deal with a character looking in a mirror, and while this is brief, I know it is a pet peeve for some agents. In the sixth paragraph, I almost want the two halves of the sentence to be joined with "but" rather than "and." Right after that sentence I'd love to see what the MC's motivation is for being purposefully late.

    Overall, I really like the concept here.


    Baby Blues Ruse

    The biggest issue I have is that your query leaves me with a lot of questions.

    First/2nd Paragraph: I'm confused why the MC isn't aware of the sterilization since it seems to be well known. And if this was a "Decision", wouldn't she know she was born during a time when reproduction was illegal just by looking at the dates? In the second paragraph you say, "so someone else can be the last." I'm not sure what you mean by that.

    3rd paragraph: Rather than telling us "she discovers what she should've known..." can you tell us how she discovers that? Is it a doctor's visit? Something else?

    4th paragraph: I'd love to see you up the stakes here. I think one of the issues is that we don't know why they're no longer reproducing. It seems strange that they wouldn't be if the human race is dying out.

    250: I'm guessing this is a prologue, and in general, these don't go over very well. My recommendation here is to skip this, and start us with the MC. In general, I do think it's well written, I have a definite picture of the scene. My only question is, who is David? I'm not sure if this is the father or the Doctor or someone else.



  8. If You Give a Girl a Redo: I was taken in by the query. I'm a fan of any time travel stories. However, the complications involving that make for a lot of traveling back and forth in time details. This happened but then she thought she'd change it with this. You might look at how you structure it to clarify the details.
    You have set the stakes and given lots of complications. I'm not sure how she travels back in time and time travel isn't mentioned specifically but the changing of past events led me there. Is that your intent? The intense scene with the boyfriend sets up complications but probably because it's so little to work with (only 250 words) the boyfriend didn't really feel realized. As I said, it's a lot to accomplish in this one snippet but something to consider. Overall, I loved the story and the MC. Good job.

  9. Baby Blues Ruse
    Your query sets up the essential conflict, however, I didn't feel a sense of compassion for the character. Her nearing menopause made me wonder what the chances would even be for her to attempt it. What are the costs or risks if she does? After all, this world forbids it. Will she be imprisoned, put to death?
    There is much more urgency in your first 250 so there is a stronger sense of compassion for the character. The problem for me is it doesn't begin with the MC. This makes this read like a prologue, not an opening. Because the query is about Mikenna, the first 250 should be about her. Good luck with your story.

  10. I want to start off by saying I wasn't even going to leave a comment for this pairing because it was one of the few where I genuinely like both entries. A lot. As in, they'd both without a doubt be on my kindle right now. Very different, they are both so intriguing and peaked my interest right away. OUTSTANDING!

    I think it very well written and easy to follow.
    I know others have said it but try try try to get that word count under 90k. It really is so important.
    I don't understand how leaving Charlie would change her family's future. I think you should explain that, but in no more than one additional sentence.

    I would cut your entire 2nd paragraph completely. You don't need, especially in the beginning as it adds nothing to the story.
    Too many dashes, so close together. What about:
    "I'm not quite dressed yet."
    "What the hell? Seriously?"
    ...or something similar and then keep the last one.
    I LOVE the voice, and I like the part at the end about not telling him that she'd basically volunteered. Great way to show without telling just where they are in the relationship. I'm into this story already!

    The first paragraph seems kind of disconnected from each sentence. The flow isn't quite there. What is something like:
    (not "when") After the human race makes the permanent decision to stop reproducing, Mikenna Lawson wakes up every morning wishing she hadn't been the last human ever born. She imagines herself as the second Eve and dreams of repopulation the Earth.

    Take out "Rebekah had known all along..." It's kind of confusing unless you elaborate, but I don't thinks it's really necessary.

    "David mocked..." It doesn't sound like he's mocking her at all, just stating something.

    Again, great premise, very creative. I know a lot of people don't like prologues, but it doesn't bother me. You did a great job in the query explaining what is happening so I knew it was her mom as soon as I started reading. Great job.

  11. Princess of LlamasJune 2, 2015 at 2:08 AM

    IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A REDO: There’s a lot about this query that I really like. The first paragraph is very strong, and the second paragraph does a great job of setting the stage. What follows is slightly confusing, but can be cleared up (I think) with just a couple of tweaks. Mainly, I was a little lost by the timeline and everyone’s ages. If Anna is a doctor, she’s near 30, yes? So she has a six-year-old sister? And then the mom’s stroke—is that recent or when Noelle was 6? Once you give us Anna’s age and a hint of when the stroke happened, I think it will be clearer. And the reason this is important is because of the journey to the past (does she go ten years in the past, five, three?) and how, at least from your query, this timing plays an important role in her decision of Charlie vs. Nick vs. family. And on that point, I don’t understand the connection between her leaving/staying with Charlie and how that could possibly impact her mom’s stroke or Noelle’s downward spiral. How could choosing one guy over the other affect whether her mom has a stroke? If you straighten that part out, I think the query will become much more cohesive.

    As for the first 250, I really don’t have much to say. I loved it. It pulled me in, made me want to read more, etc. I really have no suggestions here! Nicely done.

    BABY BLUES RUSE: I was a little confused by your query, mainly because of the first paragraph. I got tripped up where you say Mikenna imagined herself as the second Eve. I don’t understand how she could think that if she knows the human race has decided to stop reproducing. The other thing is that I’m not sure how her mom’s decision has anything to do with the story. If the conflict is whether Mikenna will decide to give birth to a human in a hopeless world, why does it matter if she was the last human or whether she was illegal? If the mother is backstory and not crucial to the plot, you might consider focusing more on Anna in the query—her world, her wants, and her desires, rather than her past.

    As for the 250, this is a prologue, right? I haven’t read the other comments, but I’m sure someone else has already said what I’m going to say. Thing is, I’m not 100% anti-prologue, but in this case, part of your story/conflict comes from Mikenna’s not knowing she was born illegal. If that’s the case, don’t put in a prologue that tells the reader she was an illegal birth. Let your reader go on the journey with your MC. Start with Mikenna. Let us get to know her.

    I like the concepts of both these entries, but one grabbed my attention more.

    Victory to IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A REDO!

  12. Give a Girl a Redo:
    QL: Although it runs a little long at nearly 300 words, it flows well. I really enjoyed the set-up of conflict and stakes, especially the part where Anna realises she’s contributed to the undoing of her relationship with Nick. One small thing: the “one-day fiancé” had me confused. I read “fiancé of one day” rather than future fiancé. Overall, a great job.
    First 250: Good establishment of character and conflict. Some of the phrases could be tightened. I had to read the “tame curls” sentence a few times, which is a shame because it’s a great image.
    I really love this premise and would definitely read on.

    Baby Blues
    QL: The wording was quite formal and as a result, I didn’t feel as close to the protagonist as I would hope to. While reading the set-up, I was thinking; “what an awful predicament” but I wasn’t emotionally moved.
    First 250: My feelings were the same for the 250 as for the query. I felt distanced from the characters. Additionally, the characters themselves didn’t interact as smoothly as I would have expected from a husband and wife. The dialogue felt a little stiff and awkward to me. I was also confused as to why the husband mocked Anna while she was in labour.
    It’s a really interesting premise which I think could shine with some more focus on natural dialogue and bringing the reader closer through a deeper character point of view.

  13. Redo: Maybe someone has already mentioned this, but I believe you're missing a "to" in the last sentence of the first paragraph of your query. Add it to read: "It’s time to move on—from all of it." I love the idea of a woman getting a chance to go back to the past and redo what her life could have been. As an adult, I often wonder what would have happened if I'd chosen this path or that, so I think this is an intriguing concept! However, I think you can shorten your query considerably to have a stronger impact. I think you should focus on one relationship (i.e. the relationship with Charlie.) Here's a suggestion of what you could do to take out some of the parts that are really just "extra." I like the first and second paragraph as is, but here's an example of what you could do with the rest (only a suggestion and obviously you might want to reword the last paragraph!)

    Yet if the rest of Anna’s history plays out as it once did, in a few months her mother will suffer a debilitating stroke that renders her unable to care for Anna’s six-year-old sister. Crushed by the loss, her sister will begin a downward spiral from which she’ll never recover.

    Try as she might to alter her mother’s path, it soon becomes clear that Anna must make an impossible decision: walk away from the love of her life—again—or stay with Charlie and allow her family’s future to be marred by illness and abandonment.

    The problem is, she doesn’t know when her time in the past will run out, or whether the clock’s been rewound for good.

    You'll notice that I took out "Noelle" because you only want a certain number of named persons in a query. We don't need to know her name, just the relevant info about her. Make sense? And I love your 250! I could immediately feel the tension between Anna and her husband. You showed us a lot in 250 words. Well done!

    Baby Blues: I really like your concept, but there were a couple things in your query that threw me off. For starters, since this is a story set in the future, I don't know if I would use the term "Googling." That's a term reserved for present day. Instead, maybe "searching" or "hunting" or something. Also, there's a typo in this line you might want to fix: "One day she’s Googling images of babiesto see if they look like the ones she sees in her dreams." Separate "babies" and "to." :)

    250: Even though this is a well-written prologue (I assume it's a prologue?), I've often heard that agents don't like prologues. They want to get to the meat of the story. So, just like others have mentioned, you might want to skip the prologue (if you feel you can) and start directly with Mikenna's story. In order to bring this prologue scene into the actual story, perhaps her mother made a video that Mikenna finds or receives at a certain age. (You could even have the line she says to her unborn daughter in there! She's in labor and panting, but she wants to make this video as a testament to her love for her daughter. Or something.) Or maybe her mother wrote her a letter explaining why she did what she did and Mikenna finds it or her aunt gives it to her. These are just ideas that immediately come to mind. Don't know if that helps...Good luck!

  14. REDO - Your query was solid. My only problem is that I got a little confused by all the names. I'd cut out as many as you can. Keep just the MC and Charlie. Refer to Nick as just her fiancee. That should clear it up. You've got some good tension in your 250. I like it.

    BABY BLUES - This sounds soooo interesting. A fresh take on apocalyptic stories. I also feel like you have too many names in your query and like your first and second paragraph can be tightened and combined. I found your first 250 really engaging, but because of your query I thought it was the MC having the baby and I thought, "Well, I guess we know what she decides." But then I read the comments and realized it's the MC's mother having her. I wonder if there's a way you can clarify this at the beginning?

  15. Give A Girl A Redo: Love the title. Word count is high. The query has everything you need in it, but could be punchier. At 300 words it’s pretty long, I’d try to keep it under 250 words. You have a good hook with her waking up as her younger self with a chance to redo her life, but the hook is getting a little lost. I’d consider cutting the fourth paragraph, or editing it down overall. I also don’t understand exactly how her little sister figures into all this – does she end up looking after her? Does she not want to? Or does she not end up looking after her and wish she could? I’d clarify this part. (Also you have a typo – ‘It’s time move on’ needs a ‘to’ in there.)

    First page: I think you’re starting your book in the wrong place. Apathetically staring at a garment bag and not wanting to go to a function isn’t a very gripping opening, nor one that excites me about your protagonist, sorry. I also had to reread it a couple of times to understand what was going on, as the opening: ‘The front door slammed. Automatically my body stiffened. What I needed to do was move, and fast.’ make it sound like a thriller, and then all the air goes out of the scene as we realise she’s not in danger. So, is there somewhere else more enticing you could begin? Perhaps already at the party, thinking how her life has taken a wrong turn? Or with some gripping hospital scene, which might make us warm more to your MC?

    Baby Blues Ruse: You have an interesting premise, but with all the internal stuff about your MC’s feelings and thoughts, it’s not quite grabbing me. You need to punch up your query a little. I’d like to have more info about this strange new world – why did they decide there should be no more humans, what was the politics around that and how is the world today? The genre is apocalyptic, so I’d love some more worldbuilding. And is this just about her, or is the fact that she can have a child something that will affect the world at large?

    First page: Mystery and intrigue is good, but by the end of your first 250 words I shouldn’t still have no idea what is happening, which I’m afraid is the case here. I need to have more information – why is she in pain? Why is she talking to her daughter, what’s happening? Is she in labour? Who is David - a bad guy, someone she’s scared of? I can’t tell. I don’t know who They are or what The Decision is. A few questions are good – but too many just leave the reader confused and lost. Rereading the query again I see that this is a prologue about her mother, which increases the confusion. I’d consider beginning with Mikenna and having this come later as flashback. Or if you do keep a prologue, you need to make it clearer and punchier, and get a little worldbuilding in – what does the street look like, the world, who are They?


  16. REDO--I found the writing in your query solid but I thought near the end it was getting a bit confusing. I think the second and third paragraph could definitely be merged together or cut down a little more. But other than that, it did hook me in and I could feel the choice your MC had to make. I liked the first 250 too, because it was more minimalistic, but I could also feel the emotions in it.

    BABY--My problem with this was that I could never figure out why the human race was sterilized or even how it came to that decision. Did they decide the human race should go extinct? I'm not sure, but that really confused me. I know you shouldn't use a TON or worldbuilding in your query, but I think adding some of that would make it a lot more easy to understand. And I didn't really understand the stakes here either, having a child. Okay. Emotional. But I'm not sure what would happen--something bad? Again, I don't know WHY every woman is sterilized so I can't really figure out the stakes here. Why is having children so bad?

    As far as your first 250, they were definitely intriguing but there was a lot of mentions to things I still was unsure about, if that makes sense. Like: I don't know The Decision but I assume it has to do with the pregnancy thing. I don't know who They are, only that they fear them. I think perhaps getting more a look into Anna's mind would work better, or even starting it in Mikenna's point of view instead. Because Mikenna is the narrator, right? The MC? Or am I missing something? Either way, I do like the uniqueness of this story. I just think that right now it's too vague to go off of.

  17. If You Give a Girl a Redo

    This query makes it clear that Anna has a lot of stakes in choosing which path to take, but I think you might want to streamline it a bit more. You've got a lot of names, and not all of them are needed (Noelle for example). I think if you focused on the romance vs. duty aspect it might be stronger. You don't need to tell us as many plot points as you are. Look for things that are repeated, and cut them out.

    250 words:
    The first paragraph is a bit stiff. You should vary your sentence structure more. Remember first paragraphs (as well as first pages) make a big impression on readers/agents. You need the writing to feel effortless.

    Each bit of dialogue has a lot of action/tags. You should try to reduce these and let your characters talk a bit more.

    In addition, if "O'Keefe" is not the famous painter (I know her last name is spelled differently) then you might want to change the name. It made me wonder what time this took place in (Since O'Keeffe died in the 80's). That's particularly crucial given the time-warp element of your novel.

    Baby Blues Ruse

    I find this query confusing. How old is Mikenna? The query talks about her like she's a teen (googling images etc.), and later a woman in menopause. I'm also not sure why Mikenna "doesn't know she was born during a time when reproduction was illegal," did she think she was born prior to the crack down? Wouldn't that date be kind of important in history? Wouldn't she be able to do the math? Also...why did everyone stop reproducing? How was that accomplished? I feel like if the world is "empty" then people wouldn't continue with the ban, unless everyone became some sort of nihilist. You have a typo "Babies to" is two words but you have it as "babiesto." Did Anna die in childbirth? Why does Aunt Rebekah lie? This query leaves me mainly with questions and very little sense of what the novel is about or even when in Mikenna's life it takes place. If her decision to have a child or not is the starting point of the novel, then your query has way too much backstory. If that's not the starting point...what is?

    250 words:
    Birth stories, particularly secret ones, are always a good hook. You've got a nice set-up here. I worry I'm reading a prologue based on the query, if might need to cut it. I've no objection to prologues, but most agents do. My only question is, if so much secrecy is involved, wouldn't Anna have been laid up in her hiding hole for days? Or is Mikenna coming early? If so...that might ramp up your drama even more.

    Victory goes to: IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A REDO

  18. GIRL: I'm a little worried about the high word count... This is a great query and I love the concept! I am a bit confused about time-line stuff. Could you put Anna's present age at the beginning of the query? Also, is she trying to alter her mother's path from a distance? Just wondering where exactly they each are. 250: After the query, where your writing is so smooth, the first paragraph felt a little choppy. Any way to combine sentences or smooth it out otherwise? Other than that, just nit picks - Should it be "I was the one WHO'D agreed...WHO'D offered up pro bono time? The sentence "But still it was him I was angry with." is really awkward. Would you consider reworking it? Finally, I think you can delete "for a reason to break his gaze." We get that. Great job and good luck!

    BABY BLUES: Query question -- does the human race decide this after she's an adult? That's how it sounds. And if that is so, why aren't there other people after her? (I realize this is explained later, but that's what the 1st paragraph made me think.) Need a space between babies and to. Other than that, I really liked this query.

    250: Why start the story here? It really feels like you should start with Mikenna, not her birth. What is your next chapter and could that work as the start? I like your writing, and would like to see this next section.

    Because of that, after mulling this over for ages, I'm going to give Victory to BABY BLUES RUSE.

  19. My two cents, for whatever they're worth:

    IF YOU GIVE: Love the premise on this one! Sounds really interesting and quite a cool concept. I did have to read the "But when Anna wakes..." line a couple of times because I wasn't completely sure what happened--perhaps that could be reworded a bit to make it really hit home? As for your first 250, the writing is strong and really put me in the scene. I don't have much to say, other than this sounds like something I'd really enjoy!

    BABY: Seriously interesting premise!! I read your query and found myself really wondering why humanity decided to stop reproducing. Is there a way to work that in there? Also, the shift from thinking she's sterilized to back again didn't feel completely necessary. I think you could pare it down to her thinking she's unable to have children, to suddenly finding out she can. The last question, about having a child who will be alone, feels like higher stakes and could carry the end of your query. As for the first 250, could you hint that the woman's about to give birth a little earlier? At first I was a little thrown on what she was doing. Still, I was interested and wanted to keep going!

  20. I thought both of these rocked so congrats to you both for writing something awesome.

    Give A Girl A Redo:
    I loved the query and the premise. I was getting excited as I read this. Being a lover of time travel and the like, it only heightened after reading the query. The 250 was amazing too and I was able to learn so much about not only Anna but Nick as well. Great job!

    Baby Blues:
    I also loved this premise and thought it was interesting. Both the query and 250 flowed very well. My only thought is that since Mikenna is the main character, it would be better to start with her rather than her mother. The mother's part could be put as a flashback in the story but I don't think it should be what you start with. I would recommend starting in a different place so we can get more information and have it capture us completely as we're thrown into this depleting world.

    Hope this helps. You guys both did great and the judges are going to have it rough. :)

  21. If You Give a Girl a Redo

    QUERY: First of all, I adore the premise and I don’t really read Women’s Fiction. The structure was clearly laid out. The events in the story flowed smoothly. I stumbled in the 4th paragraph when “Nick arrives in Australia to win her back.” For me, this brought me back to the present with Anna breaking off her engagement. As I read further, it seems Nick is in the past in Australia? If that’s the case, I think we need an explanation as to why he needs to ‘win her back’ or unless it’s because she’s with Charlie now/then? Ugh. Time travel is tough. Also, I feel that you almost don’t need the last paragraph since it rehashes everything you just said. Nicely done!

    250: I love your concept but the opening had me confused. When she was staring at the garment bag, I found it odd. I thought at first something ominous was lurking inside! Also, when “he burst into the closet” it wasn’t clear to me she was *in* the closet. I thought she was in her bedroom. If she was in her closet, might be nice to get an idea of how large it is otherwise the thought of two of them in a closet is kind of tight! Also, some characterization for Nick might help. I know it’s only the first 250 but right now he seems wooden. I hope this helps because I would love to read this someday! Good luck!

    Baby Blues Ruse

    QUERY: A cool idea but a lot of little areas had me stumbling. The first question I have is why did the human race choose to stop reproduction? There must be a reason and if so then is it dangerous for Mikenna to try and have babies? In the second paragraph, try not to use life/lives in the same sentence. There’s a typo in “babiesto.” In the third paragraph, I’m again wondering why they are sterilizing women? You end with a really great last line!

    250: I was surprised to see the story start with Mikenna’s mother. For me, I found it interesting and made me wonder how the rest of the story is structured. I thought overall the section contained a lot of tension… already we know something’s not right in their world. Some more characterization/info about David might help and what his role is in that room. Hope this helps!

  22. Note: For round 1 since there's so many entries, I'm judging based on the query only!


    Love, love, LOVE this concept! I could definitely see this being something my book club would pick up.

    I don't really have anything to add or suggest. Good luck!



    Interesting premise!

    The first two paragraphs do confuse me a bit. She knows she was the last human born, so why does she think she can be the one to repopulate Earth? And if everyone was sterilized at birth (assuming that's how the human race decided to stop repopulating, right?), why would she think she wasn't? I feel like I'm missing something important here.

    Minor thing: missing a space between "babies" and "to" in second paragraph.

    Victory to... IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A REDO!